We spend a lot of time in London restaurants. A lot of time and a lot of money. Woe is us, right? The reason we do this is to tell you about the best ones. This year, our best new restaurants list has come together pretty easily. That’s because every time we’ve been back to these spots - we always like to go a few times - they’ve been just as good, if not better, than the time before. So much so that we even find ourselves at these places on weekends. In our own time. Which always bodes well.
We’re not ones to overly analyse, but quite a few of the nine restaurants on this list feel like the best kind of sequels. They’re restaurants riffing off their own idea and taking it somewhere different. From a wine bar you want to live in, to a restaurant doing unheard of things with vegetables. These are not special occasion restaurants. They’re any occasion restaurants.
Anyway, we’re not here to deep-dive into the square footage of London restaurants. Or the optimum number of times you should chew a piece of turbot. We’re here to tell you about the best places to eat and drink. And these are our Best New London Restaurants of 2018.
Ottolenghi, the man who first wooed and confused Londoners with his food and recipes over fifteen years ago, is back. And Rovi is his best restaurant yet. What with its predominantly vegetarian menu and its funky lounge seating, there’s something a bit futuristic about this place. But it’s perfect for now. It’s also perfect whenever. We’ve come here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on multiple occasions. One time we’re pretty sure they were giving us the eyes to leave. But when you can make hot tomatoes or a bit of celeriac taste this good, and make us feel this comfortable, you’re gonna have a hard time getting rid of us.
Bright is a second wine bar and restaurant from the people behind P. Franco, that corridor-like Clapton wine bar and small plates restaurant. Don’t get us wrong. We’ve got no qualms about getting pissed in a corridor. In fact, we’re pretty good at it. But for Bright to have bottled everything that made P. Franco cool, casual, and super tasty, and put it in a proper restaurant without diluting any of the magic, is really something. If London Fields is a trek for you then let us tell you, Bright is worth it. And if it isn’t, then you should be heading there right now.
There isn’t much danger of you living close to Rochelle at the ICA, because not all that many people tend to live on or around The Mall. Unless of course the Queen’s reading this. In which case, get the pie Yer Madge. Where the original Rochelle hides in an east London bike shed, this one hides in one of the city’s best galleries. And where the original makes simple and delicious food, this one does the same. But with the added extra of cocktails.
Some restaurants are made for the day. Some restaurants are made for the night. Brigadiers is a place you want to be all the time. This Indian barbecue restaurant is what the City has been crying out for. Bone marrow biriyani, butter chicken wings, and the best lamb chops in London. Come and watch the football at the bar and retire to the pool room afterwards. Or come and sit in a mahogany-clad booth and crack into the martinis on tap. Whatever happens, you’re not leaving here early. Turning up at Brigadiers with half a dozen friends has become our go-to Saturday night move. So we’ll see you there.
Brat is the Shoreditch restaurant that every Shoreditch restaurant has tried to be. It reeks of cool. It also reeks of smoke, because everything here is cooked on the grill. This is definitely a restaurant for meat and fish eaters, and you don’t want to miss out on the turbot or the beef chop. That said we’re extremely partial to a good bit of bread and butter, and Brat is doing the best bread that you, your friends, or your family, will have had in some time.
Scully is a restaurant in St. James’s that’s making slightly bonkers food. The kind of food that walks into a room and announces itself with a foghorn whilst hitting you over the head with a giant stalk of lemongrass. It’s exciting and sometimes crazy stuff. The spiced chickpeas and charred pumpkin are some of the most memorable things we’ve eaten in a long time. Just make sure you come after dark and sit up at the counter. It’s the place to be here.
Cora Pearl, like its big sister Kitty Fisher’s, is serving up refined but no-nonsense British fare. It’s in Covent Garden instead of Mayfair, and it feels more cocktails than Krug, but the food is still extremely tasty. A ham and cheese toastie followed by a bit of venison sounds a bit like a weekend round at Prince Harry’s, but it’s much lighter than you think. The space itself is one for groups and get togethers. Get yourself a sofa seat, a few bottles, and at least two portions of the (amazing) milk and cookies dessert. Trust us, we’re professionals.
For all the slightly more showy and established restaurants on our list, Llerena is the most low-key. This excellent Islington tapas restaurant brings much of its produce straight from their farm in Spain, where they’ve been raising pigs for, er, donkey’s years. The atmosphere is wonderfully relaxed, and it’s good whether you’re alone at the bar, or at the back with a few pals. Whatever happens you’ll be tucking into some the best ham, cheese, and blood sausage on offer in London.
If there’s one thing every Londoner would say we didn’t need, it would be another coffee shop. But we’re all wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. Because Jolene is exactly what we need. This all-day Newington Green cafe and bakery is just lovely. Lovely like a hug from your mum. Or a day on the sofa when it’s torrential outside. Cumulatively, we’ve probably spent around a month in here. Eating eggs and jamon. Slurping soup. Pretending to write emails. Ordering another coffee because we can’t be arsed to leave. It’s harder than you think. Honestly.